Find out how to take great travel photos before you plan your amazing trip with help from

Pro Tips for Taking Travel Photos with Your Smartphone

Expert Advice from Pro Photographer Lola Akinmade Åkerström

You come back home from a long trip and realize that out of dozens of photos (you thought were great), you’re only able to salvage a few iPhone X pics from your amazing river cruise in Eastern Europe, hike in Yosemite National Park, destination wedding in Curaçao or safari in Tanzania. Yep, we’ve all been there. So, we decided to get some expert advice from travel photographer and writer Lola Akinmade Åkerström, recognized as the 2018 Travel Photographer of the Year by the Society of American Travel Writers. Check out her photo tips on how to use a smartphone camera to capture Instagram-worthy travel moments as well as a list of some of her favorite photography and travel apps. You may be surprised to see which apps made her list!

Travel photographer Lola Akinmade Åkerström reveals her secrets to taking great photos with her smartphone camera.
Long-Shot Lola: Photographer takes a long-shot photo of Lola hard at work in South Africa. (Photo Courtesy of Yann Macherez)

What are 5 great tips for travelers who enjoy taking photos on their smartphones? What should they know to capture the best travel photos? 

  1. Turn off flash. Avoid using it and instead, move closer to sources of natural or ambient light.
  2. Take more horizontal shots. While it’s tempting and more intuitive to just take portrait-style shots because your phone is vertical, you have more options to work with in terms of a horizontal photo.
  3. Avoid filters and instead, practice your editing skills so you can sharpen your eye using one of the apps below.
  4. Switch your food angles. Taking overview shots is tiring (I still do them once in a while). Try more environment portraits of food.
  5. Photos of you posing in front of landmarks are fine (within reason), but remember, many viewers would actually like to see the full landmark behind you as well. Travel is as much as sharing the world around you with others too. 
Find out how to take great food photos before you plan your amazing trip with help from
Food Photos: Try environment portraits of food to switch up the way you snap shots of food. (Photo courtesy of Lola Akinmade Åkerström

Is there a new, hot camera that you would recommend amateur or professional travel photographers check out right now?

 I’m not a gearhead and usually don’t chase after the latest equipment because I’m a firm believer in honing your skills and eyes with whatever camera you have first. That said, mirrorless cameras are the way to go. Either a Fuji which is great for still photos or Sony which is great for video.

 I have a Sony mirrorless camera (also called micro four-thirds) and find myself using it more and more over my heavy-duty Nikon D750 FX full frame camera which I mostly reserve for assignments.

Are there smartphone apps you would recommend to smartphone users? If so, what are they and why do you like this particular app(s)?

  1. Lightroom – The mobile edition is fantastic for editing photos. Especially since I have cameras that can wirelessly sync with my mobile photo, I can actually transfer RAW files directly and edit them using Lightroom.
  2. Snapseed – Also a wonderful photo editing app.
  3. Giant Square – I use this app for creating collages as well as splitting images for my Instagram picture puzzles.
  4. Oanda Currency – Fantastic currency converter tool I use.
  5. Google Translate – Very handy for translating languages while traveling or reading articles in a different language.

With Lola’s great photo tips and using some of her favorite apps, novice photographers should be prepared to take amazing photos on their next trip! And now, it’s all about finding the best place to share your fabulous photos. OK, we’re a little biased, but we want you to share your travels with us! Upload your best travel photos to Twitter or Instagram using the hashtag #LoveUrVacay or upload them directly on We can’t wait to see where you’ve been!  

Travel photographer Lola Akinmade Åkerström reveals her secrets to taking great photos with her smartphone camera.
Capturing Culture: Lola documents local traditions in KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, for National Geographic Channel.